Not long ago, I reviewed a tribute CD of Ian Tyson's work (here), an homage to a guy who is a much-loved figure in Canadian music but unfortunately largely known in the States only by way of the decades-past Ian & Sylvia duo, which had a hit or three and then faded. Tyson, however, continued on, and this is his 14th release for the Stony Plain label. It's also a new direction.
His voice has gruffed up subsequent to trying to out-sing a broken PA system at a gig in 2005, resulting in permanent damage to his vocal chords (hey! the guy's 75!), cancelling a good deal of his bottom end. Fortunately, though it may be a bit jarring to long-time fans, this has resulted in a split between sprechestimme and a grit appropriate to the Western plains spirit Tyson has always preferred. This ten-spot of songs (seven of them original) is as steeped in the past as anything he's ever done, accompanied in quartet and quintet by gents highly complementary to the vivid old airs and cowboy romances.
The photos of this well-packaged release have Tyson looking to be a weathered John Wayne, an extremely iconic portraiture of exactly his milieu, and the music reminds the listener more than a lttle of the best of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, but more picturesque. Where I find a lot of Willie and Johnny to be inconclusive and facile, Tyson is far more satisfying, not just for the entire musical package but also for his personna, which has always emerged strongly on each CD.
Thus, what we have here is an interesting blend of sonority and narrative conjuring up the past via a rurality constant to the Americas and integral to history, memory, and habit. It hurts not a bit either that Tyson now sounds more than a little like Clint Eastwood, nor that his backing band is drenched in the sweetest most rustic tonicities of yesteryear, the two walking hand in glove down the rutted trail to round the strays and wanderers back into the warm fold of home and hearth amid the wide skies, verdant forests, and rolling meadows, milieaus Tyson knows very well indeed.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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